PHILIPPINES: Cybercrime, criminal libel and the media: From ‘e-martial law’ to the Magna Carta in the Philippines
President Ferdinand E. Marcos declared martial law in the Philippines on 21 September 1972. Issuing the declaration under Proclamation 1081 which suspended civil rights, gagged the news media and imposed military authority in the country, Marcos defended this draconian move under the Philippines Constitution in response to a series of bombings allegedly caused by communist rebels. The emergency rule at the height of the Cold War was also planned to quell rebellion and drive national development. Four decades later, on 12 September 2012, President Benigno Aquino III signed Republic Act No. (RA) 10175, or the Cybercrime Prevention Act, into law. This legislation was immediately widely condemned as a threat to freedom of expression on the internet, the media and online privacy and has been likened by human rights groups, media freedom advocates, ‘netizens’ and opposition Congress members as comparable to the Marcos Martial Law era. Kabataan Representative Raymond Palatino branded the legislation ‘e-Martial Law’, comparing it to repressive Marcos-era decrees censoring and harassing the media. Fifteen Supreme Court appeal petitions were lodged against the Cybercrime Law but the subsequent ruling found the law constitutional in February 2014. This article examines the law, challenges since the constitutional ruling, and demands for repealing the law and replacing it with a so-called ‘Magna Carta’ of internet media freedom.
Pictured: Figure 1: Protests against the Cybercrime Law have been widespread in the Philippines. Image: Interaksyon
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